The tale of the Dungarvon Whooper is a bit of Miramichi folklore from the 1700’s. New Brunswick was settled by strong and hardy people. They had to make a living from resources that only the Land and Sea could provide. Many settlers would fish or farm during the spring and summer months. When the snow set in; they were cuttin’ wood in the forests. Families had to be fed and income was needed all year round. It was back breakin’ work but they met the challenges head on.
Lumber camps were set up; in the interior of the province, to harvest the bounty of wood. These camps could accommodate many people and provided the bare necessities to survive a working life in the woods. The lumberjacks(as they were known as) would stay in the woods for weeks even months at a time. Now lumberin’ was real hard work; plain and simple. You know; there were no chainsaws in those days. At the days end from logging; a warm homecooked meal was welcomed. So the Cook in the camp was of prime importance. These men were hungry and had to be fed. ‘Magine that job!
Our story ’bout the Dungarvon Whooper takes us to the Dungarvon River. This river flows through central New Brunswick, to the Renous River and then on into the Miramichi River. In the early days; this whole area was prime for lumbering operations. It was not yet settled and possessed massive stands of lumber. Camps were set up all through out the area to capitalize on this booming industry. Work was plentiful.
The Dungarvon Whooper is a tale told about one of these camps in the late 1700’s. The story begins with a young fella by the name of Ryan(probably Irish). He travelled to NB from PEI looking for work. Somehow he found his way to one of the Dungarvon lumbering camps where he scored a job as a cook. On his very first day; and once the lumberjacks left for the woods, he found himself alone with the Boss of the camp. Now the Boss; who obviously had a bit of a greedy streak in him, noticed that young Ryan kept a money belt around his waist. Well; to make the long story short; a struggle soon broke, Ryan was strangled, dumped on the floor and robbed of his money.
A snow storm was raging outside. The men returned to the camp to find poor Ryan lying dead on the floor. The Boss claimed he had been away for the day and acted surprised at this turn of events. It appeared to everyone that he died of natural causes. Due to the weather; it was decided to quickly bury him before the storm got worse.
Eerie Sounds in the Night
Well; after it was all said ‘n done, the men turned in for the night. They were awakened by a distinct whooping and wailing sound. They discovered the eerie sound was coming from the direction of Ryan’s gravesite. The blood curdling sounds persisted long into the the night. By the mornings light; the men high tailed it out of there. Periodically; and only at night; the whooping and wailing could be heard all through the region. It is said that a Priest(from Blackville) was brought to the camp site to perform an exorcism at the gravesite. But the wailing never ceased. Needless to say; the legend continued and no one ever returned to log at this camp!
During this time; there was a nightly passenger train that ran from the Miramichi to Fredericton. This train became known as the Dungarvon Whooper. On a frosty winter night; the train whistle travelling through the night sky, resembled the skin crawling sounds of the Whooper. It was a reminder to all that knew the story. The locals soon dubbed the train the Dungarvon Whooper!.
If you ever pass through the area; on a cold winters night, beware of the whoop and wail of the Dungarvon Whooper! Thats mighty Scarey!